World's Largest Diamond Miner Debuts New, Lab-Made Product Line
World's Largest Diamond Miner Debuts New, Lab-Made Product Line
Diamond dynasty De Beers stoops to conquer with new line of man-made diamond jewelry
31 May, 2018, 22:04
According to Cleaver, their research suggests that consumers see diamonds that are grown in a lab as a fun, pretty product that should be low-priced.
Element Six Technologies Corp., an Oxford, England-based synthetic diamond technology company owned by De Beers, acquired the site in December from the Port of Portland for roughly $2.3 million. Now a 1-carat synthetic sells for roughly $4,000, about half the price of a natural diamond.
"Lightbox will be clear with consumers about what lab-grown diamonds are, and will offer straightforward pricing that is consistent with the true cost of production", said Lightbox general manager Steve Coe.
Unlike imitation gems such as cubic zirconia, diamonds grown in labs have the same physical characteristics and chemical makeup as mined stones. The diamonds will be available in white, pink, and blue and made in a facility in Portland, Ore., that De Beers plans to sink almost $100 million into. "We remain a natural diamonds business", he said, adding that man-made diamonds used in fashion would not undermine the business for real diamonds as they served different markets.
The world's biggest diamond miner for years vowed that it wouldn't sell stones made in laboratories.
Chief executive Bruce Cleaver explained the reasons for the U-turn by saying it would allow De Beers to offer what consumers have told the company they want, but aren't getting: "affordable fashion jewellery that may not be forever, but is ideal for right now".
De Beers will target younger spenders with its new diamond brand and try to capture customers that have been resistant to splurging on expensive jewellery. They're made from a carbon seed placed in a microwave chamber and superheated into a glowing plasma ball.
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This year, De Beers reported seeing a 6 percent sales decline in rough diamonds.
The above process makes particles that can ultimately crystallise into diamonds in 10 weeks. The technology is so advanced that experts need a machine to distinguish between lab-made and mined gems.
The other Element Six plants are in the United Kingdom and produce synthetic diamonds for industrial uses.
The company had previously promised that it would never sell man-made diamond jewelry, but the demand for it is now growing, and DeBeers' new strategy will undercut smaller rivals in the artificial diamond market. When it is up and running the factory will be able to produce more than 500,000 carats of diamonds a year.
De Beers' parent, Anglo American, was hit by the commodity price crash of 2015-16, but has recovered strongly and is leading the sector this year with a 13 per cent rise in its share price. That compares with lab production of less than 4.2 million carats, according to Bonas & Co.
On Tuesday, De Beers said it had extensive talks with Botswana about the decision to sell man-made diamonds and the country supports the move.
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